Oct 19, 11:57 AM EDT

Rights group says Kuwait strips 33 of nationality

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Rights group says Kuwait strips 33 of nationality

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KUWAIT CITY (AP) -- The Kuwaiti Cabinet stripped citizenship from 33 people this year, including at least three who were vocal critics of the government, Human Rights Watch said Sunday.

The New York-based rights group said Kuwait announced the latest batch of 18 people who were stripped of their nationality on Sep. 29. It called on Kuwaiti authorities to stop the practice against those exercising free speech and to ensure that people who lose their citizenship have the right to an independent review of the ruling.

"Instead of targeting their critics in a back-door way, the Kuwaiti authorities should come clean and stop revoking their citizenships once and for all," Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The group said "revocation decisions are not subject to any judicial or administrative appeals process," but that courts did examine five citizenship revocations since 2010 of people born to Kuwaiti fathers.

Among the most high-profile Kuwaitis to lose their nationality this year is Ahmad al-Shemmeri, owner of the independent Al-Youm television station and Alam Al-Yawm newspaper. His media outlets were ordered temporarily shut down twice this year by a court for defying a prosecutor-ordered media blackout about an investigation into a coup plot to overthrow the Gulf monarchy's government.

The decision to revoke his citizenship was based on "undermining the social or economic system," according to Human Rights Watch. His four children also became stateless under the law.

Over the summer, the Cabinet ordered the Interior Ministry to review the citizenship of people who undermine or threaten the country's stability. Kuwait's opposition denounced the move and said its aim is to suppress the opposition.

Kuwait has the most politically empowered parliament among the Gulf Arab states, with opposition lawmakers often directly challenging government officials over corruption and power abuses.

There were brief anti-corruption protests in July led by opposition figure Musallam al-Barrack, whose spokesman Saad al-Ajmi was among those stripped of citizenship. Al-Ajmi saw his nationality revoked under an article in the law that allows withdrawing citizenship from anyone naturalized by another country, though he told Human Rights Watch that he has not been naturalized by another country

Also stripped of citizenship was conservative cleric Nabil al-Awadi. The rights group said al-Awadi, a naturalized citizen who was stateless before 1998, was stripped of his citizenship for "undermining the country's social or economic system" and for "undermining the country's higher interest or foreign security."

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